Sailing a Low Risk First Beat
Sailing World magazine has really become a great resource for racing sailors. So has their website – where you can find hundreds of well written and illustrated articles on all sorts of racing topics. In fact, we’ve stopped handing out a proprietary book on racing and point our students to the treasure trove of resources available on the site and others. It is also cool that they used a J World boat – Wild Horses – as the featured image for the article. Just sayin.
After more than 40 days of racing already this season (you read that right) you wouldn’t think an article like the one written by Steve Hunt about low risk first beats would have much impact. Haven’t we seen it all? Isn’t it easy by now? But leave it to Steve, one of the best in business, to boil the whole thing down to its root and make it actionable.
If you like the right, he says, position yourself just to the right of your competitors. If you like the left, position yourself just to the left. It’s that simple. There’s no need to sail off by yourself, splitting from the majority, hoping for the horizon job, because if you’re wrong, you’ll find yourself deep at the top mark and unable to catch up. By positioning yourself in the proximity of the favored side, you’ll be in contention if you’re right, and if you’re wrong, you’ll still be close enough to have a decent comeback. Taking a huge risk by splitting creates more of an all-or-nothing outcome. Winning regattas (or simply doing well) is more about avoiding bad races than it is about winning a few and placing deep in the others.
I should have that tattooed on my arm. I have been frustrated so many times by the simple fact that I can’t — or don’t execute my game plan or decide to swing for the fences because I am feeling way behind.
The only time sailing to an edge is safe is in really light air, when the edges tend to have more wind and the middle is disturbed. My dad, who is a light-air expert, used to tell me, “You have a 50-percent chance of getting the edge right in light air, and a 100-percent chance of being wrong in the middle.” He’s always right.
As North American sailors – especially here on the Chesapeake and on Tampa Bay – we ARE light air sailors. So that last quote should be tattooed in our brains too.
Check out the rest of the great stuff over at Sailing World — even if it means kicking yourself the next time you are racing.